Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Here, There and Out of My Mind

I’ll start with the ending, it’s all come to a crashing halt. I feel like a child who has been taken to a day in the park, all the rides, all the sugary foods and now they say I have to come home?

Yes. I will tell you about the trip, with lots of photos, so you won’t think I am just being a bore, you can look at the photos and imagine yourself there with us. At the end of the trip, it all goes downhill, the lovely African adventure has ended.

Leaving our last camp, we fly in a very small airplane back from the lower Zambezi to Lusaka. We drive to the airstrip, the pilot checks our names against his list, we climb aboard and take off. That’s the airstrip. The last time we were there, we don’t think it was paved.

It is the best flight we have all day – two charming pilots, five passengers, it is a great flight. Lusaka isn’t so bad; we have a competent ticket agent who manages to book our bags all the way to Pensacola, so we don’t have to scurry around picking up bags, then coming back in to check them in, because we booked our travel to Johannesburg separately from out travel from JoBurg to Lusaka, it’s complicated but it all has to do with alliances. Not my alliances, airline alliances.

BTW, Lusaka International airport is sweet. Quiet. One tiny little restaurant in the departure area where we found good grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Some shops, not greatly stocked.

Lusaka airport – you walk to the plane, walk up the stairs, the old fashioned way:

Johannesburg transit is horrible. It always is. We have flown in from Frankfurt several times, from Dubai several times, and from Windhoek and Gaborone and Lusaka – transiting Johannesburg is, for some reason, irrationally annoying. No matter how crowded the transit area is, or how isolated, the computers are always slow, or . . . the operators. No matter what airline we deal with, that transit area, the one downstairs where you have to check in for your next flight, it is horrible. It takes so much longer than it needs to.

Upstairs, we hit the shops, junky Out of Africa with it’s schlock, some of the others. I made a big mistake; I was buying little fun things for our son and his wife, little coffee things and such at Taste of Africa, and I bought them some biltong; what we call jerky. They had ostrich and eland and several exotic kinds, so I bought several.

Loading up for the 17 hour (yes, you read that right, it is Delta’s longest non-stop flight) flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta was an unusual experience. Think Amsterdam on steroids. We are all sitting, and are rousted out of the waiting room and told to line up in two lines, with men in one line and women in the other. They look at our bags and ask us questions. This is the third time today my bags have been checked; I don’t mind, but it is a little unusual. Then we line up again once we are back in the waiting room; it is nearly time to board.

There is one of those wild-eyed women going down the line asking loudly “Is this the line for PRIORITY boarding? Are you all PRIORITY passengers?” and clearly she thinks she has a pretty high priority. But when the airline boards the Diamonds and the Platinums, she is still waiting back with the golds and silvers, so I guess she didn’t have as much priority as she thought she had.

It’s one of those big, huge flights with every seat taken. It’s sort of like being in a high school cafeteria, tempers flare as overhead baggage bins fill up, parents with children beg people to change places so they can fly together, while the privileged politely decline; they paid extra for those aisle seats. It’s all pretty horrible, but we have books and somehow we even catch a couple hours sleep. The flight attendants are like harried waitresses, hauling those drink carts and meal carts up and down the aisles, trying to get people to stay in their seats (who can stay in their seat for SEVENTEEN hours??) I discovered that if you are reading books, iPad batteries keep their charge longer than if you are playing Sudoku. I’m reading a great book, Wolf Hall, and it holds my interest.

Arriving in Atlanta, it’s all my fault, AdventureMan and I are shuttled into the agricultural inspection area, where it is pretty much us and all the Africans bringing back turnips and sugar cane and rice and meats and special foods. I didn’t know that the dried meat was a problem, but evidently ostrich meat is some of the very most threatening, and other countries have serious diseases that we have so far managed to escape. They are actually very kind to me, although they do confiscate all my jerkies. The inspector tells us they get all kinds of stuff (there was a huge barrel of confiscated agricultural products) including rats, and monkey brains.

Sadly, many of the people in there with us don’t really understand, and I know many of them went to a lot of trouble to bring a home specialty for some family member, only to have it confiscated. Many didn’t understand enough English and the inspectors didn’t know their languages.

We got off easy enough; all they cared about was confiscating the illegal meat.

Found a place with decent coffee and croissants, found a place to wash our faces and brush our teeth, so we boarded the Pensacola flight fresher than we got off the flight from JoBurg.

Our son met us at the airport and got us all home; we grabbed a quick lunch at the nearby Marina Oyster Barn (our comfort-food restaurant of choice) and then showered and tumbled into bed. We woke up again as our son and his wife and the darling little happy toddler came by for dinner. After dinner, we said good night and good bye to our guests, knowing we were all going to bed but that we would be awake in the middle of the night and they would probably leave to go to their home. As it turned out, we were all awake around 3:30 in the oh-dark-hundred, so we were able to hear them off.

We’ve been up since, trying to take care of business and to stay awake. I started with trying to get through (get rid of) over a thousand e-mail – two weeks is a LONG time. AdventureMan fell asleep in my office around 7:30 so I woke him up and made him go to aqua-aerobics with me, we hit the grocery store, and poor AdventureMan, his computer has bit the dust so he had to buy a new computer today. He picked up the mail in the afternoon, I paid the outstanding bills. Anything, anything to stay awake, to try to get us back on schedule, Pensacola time.

We caught the last episode of Game of Thrones, Season two, which helped us make it an extra hour last night, and AdventureMan has some things we missed lined up for tonight – HBO’s Girls, VEEP, and the first episode from the new season of True Blood, also he thinks Southland is starting up again, and we really like that.

I think I’m going out of my mind. Jet lag makes me a little crazy. Normally, I am all unpacked by now, but I couldn’t even stand to look at my suitcase today. I bought salmon for tonight’s dinner, but I don’t think I can cook it. I haven’t felt energetic since . . . 3:30 this morning, LOL. When I get tired, I can get weepy, or irrational, or a little unbalanced. What I yearn for is to take a nap, a nice, long, snoozy nap . . .

Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . . ………..

June 15, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Bureaucracy, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Pensacola, Random Musings, Shopping, Travel, Zambia | , | 5 Comments